Last month, about six weeks after winning his sixth best reggae album Grammy Award, Ziggy Marley released a free, standalone track titled “See Dem Fake Leaders,” an overtly political condemnation of a dark cast of characters who maintain control around the world by “making enemies out of friends.” But it is an optimistic vision of the future that Marley brings to Kaya Fest in Miami this weekend, because, he says, that is the best antidote to what he calls a poisonous system.
The inaugural Kaya Fest, organized by Ziggy’s Grammy-winning brother Stephen on Saturday, April 22, at Bayfront Park in Miami, features a strong lineup of music, including soul singer Lauryn Hill, her fellow former Fugee Wyclef Jean, Grammy winner Sean Paul, reggae icons Inner Circle and Cultura Profetica, among others. The highlight of the event will be the onstage reunion, for the first time in more than 20 years, of five sons of Bob Marley: Stephen, Ziggy, Julian, Damian and Ky-Mani.
Presented by Stephen Marley’s Fruit of Life Productions with the theme "education before recreation," Kaya Fest also will share information about the responsible use of the cannabis plant, its medical and ecological advantages, as well as the commercial applications of hemp. The festival will include food and drink, fashion and craft vendors.
Speaking from his home in Los Angeles, Bob Marley’s eldest son discussed his new music, Kaya Fest and the Marley brothers’ reunion.
We are speaking at a time when there is a lot of negative noise in the world. Is it difficult for you to remain positive?
That is the thing. They want you not to be positive. That’s how the system works. … Our thought is that there is more positivity in the world than negativity. But them try to push negativity all the time. Where is the good news station? Which station is telling you the good news? There is … good news out there, but them gotta tell you the bad news because they want to keep you oppressed, and demoralize the people and making the people think, “There’s no way we can change they world. Look how bad everything is. Look how terrible it is. We can’t do nothing.” They want the people to give up. They want me to give up. They want you to give up, on that vision of a better world and a better place. But we know it’s going to happen. And that’s why we’re positive, because we know.
What was the inspiration for “See Dem Fake Leaders”?
[Laughs] The idea has been in my head for some time now. Because I am astonished at this world, and the leaders in it, that cannot find a way for the world to live together in peace yet. What? How is that possible? How is that possible with leaders? What is the purpose of a leader if not to bring people together and live together to make the world more harmonious and peaceful? What is the purpose of a leader if not to spread love, so that we can all prosper? What is the purpose? You’re not a leader. I’m saying the world is full of those leaders now. How come the world can’t get together then? Because of bad leadership. We have bad leadership all over the world. So that is a problem, you know?
Your father, of course, was known as much for his idealism as his music. Do you feel a responsibility to deliver that message?
It is not a responsibility. It is who we are. It’s not something we feel we have to do. It’s something that we do. It’s a continuation. It’s a continuation of something else, do you know what I mean? We have a long lineage of people, throughout history, throughout time, from the beginning of mankind to now, who spoke out, who were inspired to say things or write things or draw things … to raise the consciousness of humanity.
Why has it been so long for the five brothers to perform together?
Well, I don’t know why. [Laughs] We just never had something like this [Kaya Fest]. It’s brothers, you know? That’s how it is. Steve just asked, and when Steve asks you something, you just say, “Yeah.” [Laughs]
Do you know what songs you’ll be doing?
This is not my set. I’m not doing a Ziggy Marley set. Steve is working on the set list. Obviously, we want to play some of our father’s stuff, and a couple of individual stuff. There’s some [Bob Marley] favorites. I think we’ll do [songs from] “Rastaman Vibration.” It’s what people feel. Just play the music what people like. Bob’s music, our music. We’re just going to have fun, really. That’s all.
You are performing at the first Kaya Fest. What is Stephen’s goal with the festival?
It’s about just educating people, through music and through discussion, about the plant people call marijuana or cannabis. It is important for that conversation to open and everyone to be open to it, and the beneficial uses of this plant. We have to put it to use as mankind. We can’t have people be ignorant and demonize it.
The conversation about various forms of legalization is fairly prominent across the United States. Does that surprise you? Are you frustrated that it has taken so long?
The thing I see with it is that we need to stop and tell the truth. Stop spreading falsehoods. Just tell the truth. That’s the first thing. The second thing is to tell the whole truth. Because marijuana, smoking and the medical use, all of that is good, but that’s only half the story. The next side is the hemp side, the industrial side, the environmental uses of the plant, the materials that the plant can make that will reduce environmental impact, whether you make fuel with it, or building materials or clothing material or whatever. This plant has many, many uses. So all I want is to not lose in the discussion the whole picture. Because the whole picture is what we really need. It is the whole plant that is really going to benefit us if we put it to use. But if we only focus on half of it, then we’re still doing a disservice to ourselves and to the truth, you know?
Kaya Fest will take place 1 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at Bayfront Park Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Tickets cost $80 for general admission, with reserved seats $140 and VIP reserved seats $200, at LiveNation.com. For more information, go to KayaFest.com.